Although BEFORE THE POISON is also set in Robinson's native Yorkshire, it is quite a different tale to the Banks' series. Here's an official summary blurb:
You can read an excerpt from BEFORE THE POISON here.
Grace Fox poisoned her husband in January, 1953. Or did she? Though she was tried for murder and subsequently hanged, Grace remained a silent and enigmatic figure to the very end.
When Chris Lowndes returns to his native Yorkshire to live in the isolated Kilnsgate House nearly sixty years later, in the wake of his wife’s untimely death, he wants only to be left alone to compose his piano sonata after years of soul-destroying, though lucrative, work writing film scores. Soon, however, as he learns the troubled history of Kilnsgate, he becomes fascinated by Grace’s story. The more he discovers about her life and her work as a Queen Alexandra’s nurse during the war, the more certain he becomes that she couldn’t have murdered her husband.
As Chris searches for other explanations of what might have happened on that snow-bound January night, through rumours of half-glimpsed figures, mysterious strangers and a missing letter, his quest to prove Grace’s innocence becomes entangled with his own need to sift through the ruins and loose ends of his own life in search of some kind of meaning and order, and his new relationship with local estate agent Heather Barlow.
Alternating between a contemporary account of Grace’s trial, her wartime journals of Dunkirk, Singapore and Normandy, and Chris’s quest for the truth, Before the Poison is a suspenseful exploration of guilt, self-sacrifice and redemption, moving inexorably towards a revelation that, when it is uncovered, will prove shattering and surprising both to Chris and to the reader.
The book beat out some high-quality competition to take out the 2012 Arthur Ellis Award. Here's the rest of the short-list:
- A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny
- I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley
- I'll See you in My Dreams by William Deverell
- The Guilty Plea by Robert Rotenberg
With other very good Canadian crime fiction from last year such as Linwood Barclay's THE ACCIDENT and Chevy Stevens' NEVER KNOWING, not even making the shortlist (let alone the many other books in the running originally), Canadian crime fiction certainly looks in fine fettle.
You can see a full list of all the winners, courtesy of Crimespree magazine, here.